The Last Voyage of The Bonnie Fortune: Part Two
Also by draconis
5. Stormy weather.
They reached the island. Even from afar they could see the storm belt hovering in front of them, and the crew felt uneasy.
"It'll probably pass before we reach it," Ximor lied, as much to himself as to the crew members who asked him about the storm.
"It's not moving," Farrah told him. The Faerie Xweetok leapt into the air, spreading her wings and flew off without waiting for a reply. Ximor looked after her, holding one hand up to shade for the sun as he looked up. She was high above the boat; nothing more than a speck on the blue sky above them. Then she dove back down, landing next to him.
"It's a storm. Of course it's moving," Ximor told her and she shook her head slowly.
"The water moves. The rain moves. But the storm? I've been looking at it for three days now," Farrah said.
"We only saw it last night," Ximor interjected and she gave him a dull look.
"You only saw it last night," she countered and flapped her wings once in explanation. Ximor nodded and gestured for her to continue.
"The belt itself is docked," she said flatly and then walked away without giving Ximor a chance to answer. There wasn't anything to answer. He didn't know what to say.
He knew what she had meant even though he hadn't heard the expression before. The reason why he hadn't heard it before was because storms don't dock. They move around and they leave.
"What do you think?" he asked Klaus, who was standing by the railing watching over three fishing poles.
"I think the fish isn't biting," Klaus replied.
"About the storm," Ximor explained.
"I don't think about storms. That's your job," Klaus said and spat over the railing for emphasis.
"You gotta have some sort of opinion," Ximor said sourly.
"I do," Klaus agreed. "We're out of fresh fruit. Find a way around the storm or the crew will all have scurvy by the time we return to dock."
"Thanks," Ximor said and walked away. It wasn't a good opinion and he didn't want to hear it, but it was a helpful opinion.
They hadn't stopped by any ports to stock up on supplies; they knew where the island was and what they would find there. In this part of the ocean they would find the same fruits and vegetables as they would in Mystery Island; all of which edible.
This had been his fault. His hubris.
Ximor called a ship meeting, and they all showed up. Standing on deck with his back to the storm, he explained the situation to them. The storm wasn't moving and they couldn't find a way around. The only options were to sail to Meridell, or go up against the wind and head for Mystery Island. Both options meant another two weeks living on salted fish and whatever Klaus could haul out of the water. Scurvy was a fair risk.
"I say we take the storm," Frankie said. Frankie, a brown Kougra almost as thin as Ximor himself and only half as tall, was the ship's cooper. "I'm biased though," Frankie added and gave him a wide grin which displayed several black holes; teeth lost to scurvy many years ago.
"That's a fool's run," Ximor replied flatly and Savin laughed out loud.
"Yes?" Ximor asked, anticipating the answer. Savin, a tall green Lenny blighted by pox marks, had been hired as a deckhand and simply stayed on the ship. He was a comedian at heart and would have made a career in it if not for the fact that he wasn't funny.
"We're fools, are we not?" Savin asked loudly and then turned to the rest of the crew. "Ship'o'fools!" There was no laughter.
"The idiot's got a point," someone said, and Ximor appreciated the firm, authoritative tone. At last somebody who knew what to do.
A large blue Grarrl, his scales the same color as shallow water, stepped forwards and gestured to the deck.
"Bonnie's a sturdy gal, right?" he asked and Ximor nodded.
"You should know, Finn. You're the ship builder," Ximor replied and the Grarrl nodded emphatically.
"I know," Finn said, grinning. "I've seen too many ships go down at dock, so I've made sure Bonnie can take a hit. Double rigged the bow and used the best materials."
"Your point?" Ximor asked. Finn could talk for hours on any subject and usually would if nobody stopped him, and this was far from the best time for a lecture on good boat materials.
"I say we take the fool's run," Finn said, sounding oddly sincere about it. He turned to Farrah and asked, "You know how far it is to the island?"
"Nope," Farrah replied casually.
"Well, what good are you then?" Finn retorted tauntingly and she scowled at him.
"I'm good for many things," she replied sourly. "That don't mean I can tell distance through a storm," she considered, and then added, "There's an island there; I saw some green through the rain."
"Well, that's all we need to know," Finn said cheerfully, and Ximor nodded, his smile rising as he understood what Finn meant to suggest.
The storm belt wasn't wide; the maps said the island was thirty miles away and more than half of that were calm waters. After the last few miles of storm...
"Get some speed, head straight for the storm and yank the sails the moment we hit. We'll coast through and hit the shore," Ximor said and Finn nodded.
"She'll be banged up, but we can wait on shore and fix her up when the storm ends," Finn said.
"Well, there we have it," Ximor said. Fool's run or scurvy.
The crew turned to look at the storm and it greeted them with the sound of distant thunder. Whitecaps rolled out from the black air of rain and wind, trailing a mile out.
"Well, are we fools or are we men?" Savin asked loudly and somebody hit him over the head with a flat hand. Savin fell forwards and then got back on his feet quickly. "Then let us die like fools!" he cawed cheerfully and the same hand hit him again.
6. Stormy weather 2
Ximor stood by the wheel, looking back at the storm as the ship moved slowly away. The far sound of drums rang up from below deck, beating in time with the oars which moved the ship upwind.
"Somebody say this is a mad idea," Ximor asked the empty deck. All hands were on the oars; his own hands would be there too if he wasn't needed to steer the ship. Better to be done with it quickly.
"Enough!" he shouted when the storm was nothing but a dark cloud on the horizon. At first he though they hadn't heard him and then the drums changed their beat. He leaned over the railing and saw the oars on the left side stop, held into the air. The ship began to turn and several pets emerged from below the deck and climbed into the masts.
"Say when!" someone called and Ximor held a thumb up. He judged their position to the storm and when the ship pointed directly at the dark cloud he waved his hand down.
Three sails swooped down, held by all six pets, and they caught the wind at once. The ship lurched forwards hard enough to make him stumble and then it settled, moving forwards at a brisk pace. Twenty mile top speed, Ximor guessed as he felt the wind neutralized around him. The storm once again drew closer and he held the wheel steady.
"Able hands on deck!" he called and the short rustling sound as fifty oars were drawn inside told him he had done his job for now.
He liked being the captain of the ship; spending his days navigating, being kept company by his friends and his thoughts. But in times like these he would gladly hand the wheel over to any fool willing to take it. He wanted to be in the sails. He wanted to man the pumps. He wanted to do anything but to be the useless captain whose only task was to yell able hands on deck and then watch as everyone else did the work.
He turned back to the storm, judging the distance and the speed. He was acutely aware of the water rushing below him.
"Five miles!" he called, and he could hear the crew working faster behind him.
Sara began singing a cheerful tune and it took him a moment to realize it was Fools Of The Water, sung at a faster pace. He turned and saw her sitting on her usual place up in the mast.
You really think this is the time for a funeral song? he thought, but didn't say. He didn't want to point it out. His own nerves were up, and he doubted anybody else were in a better shape.
Then they struck the storm.
7. Stormy Weather 3
The wind struck the first sail, pressing it against the mast until it ripped in half. Ximor looked up at the sail and a wave struck the ship, nearly tumbling him over.
"Cut the sails!" he yelled as he fought to hold on to the wheel.
A wave hit the side of the boat, splashing water over them, and the wheel slipped out of his hands, the pegs beating mercilessly at his fingers as it spun wildly around. He yanked at the wheel, his fingers already numb from the beating and the cold water. The ship reeled sideways, and it was forced back on the path through the storm.
At least he hoped it was the path. The storm had engulfed them and the clear sky from moments ago was replaced by black clouds. He made another adjustment to the wheel, feeling it vibrate as the current fought to turn the ship around again.
The sails flapped down towards the deck and one half of the torn sail caught the wind and fluttered off into the sky.
Thunder boomed over them, rattling the ship, and rain began pouring.
"Man the pumps!" someone called. Ximor tried to see who had done it but the stern was obscured by darkness and water.
Another wave hit them, tilting the ship sideways. Someone screamed in terror and Ximor looked up, fearing the worst. The wheel slipped in his hands and this time he had to lean his entire body onto it to hold it.
"Someone!" he called, not sure who to call for. He reevaluated and then yelled, "Someone heavy!"
Klaus jogged up to him and he felt gratitude wash over him. Klaus was the biggest Skeith he had ever seen and he couldn't think of anyone better to take the wheel.
"I hereby resign my duty as captain!" he shouted, feeling a mad laugh rise through his body on a wave of panic as the sound of his voice was drowned out by the wind.
Klaus looked at him in question and he gestured at the wheel with one hand. The moment he lifted his hand the wheel spun out again, knocking his other hand aside. Klaus grabbed the wheel and mouthed soundlessly at him.
"That way!" Ximor shouted, pointing into the storm and Klaus nodded and pulled the wheel around. Ximor could hear the ship creaking; the internal works fighting against the force of the wheel, and for a moment he feared the whole thing would break.
Another wave struck them, tilting the ship almost sideways. For one desperate moment he looked straight ahead at the surface of the water. Water sloshed onto the deck and drained into the galley, and then the ship straightened again.
"Pumps!" Ximor yelled, but nobody replied.
The wind howled past them, bending the masts sideways, and Ximor didn't think anybody had heard him. He darted towards the galley, meaning to man the pumps himself and Klaus' voice boomed after him, for a moment matching the thunder.
He was stuck. He couldn't leave the wheel; even if Klaus held it he had to make sure they were going in the right direction and now was more important than ever.
"Get off!" he shouted, his mouth inches away from Klaus' ear, and the Skeith didn't respond. Ximor made frantic pumping gestures with both hands and then waved both hands at the Galley. Klaus nodded and ran off, leaving Ximor to take the wheel.
Ximor fought against the wheel, almost getting his hands on it and then another wave hit and the wheel spun wildly around, the pegs hitting him across the shoulder. He swore in mixed pain and frustration and leapt onto the wheel, holding it with both hands as it jerked him into the air. He set his feet out and they struck the deck painfully hard, but it had worked. He twisted around; both hands still on the wheel and then coaxed the ship back on track.
The one shout he had heard since they entered the storm. In a flash of lightning he saw the entire ship. A pet skidded sideways as a wave washed over them, and then struck the railing and vaulted over.
"Two pets overboard!" Ximor shouted back and then he saw Sara running across the deck, a rope held between her teeth.
She leapt over the railing, taking a swan dive into the furious whitecaps. Someone else grabbed the other end of the rope and dragged it back, running across the deck as they yanked. Another pet leapt into the water, and Farrah followed, taking to her wings. A wave struck her and she disappeared under the side of the boat.
"No!" Ximor yelled and he fought the urge to leap after them. These pets had been his friends for years, some even decades, but if he let go of the wheel to save them the rest of the pets would be no better off.
The pumps kicked in, sloshing water out through the side of the boat, but Ximor thought it was too late. Water now lay on the deck and the cabins below had to be filling up.
Sara was pulled up by the rope, holding one pet and she dove back in immediately, still holding on to the rope.
Another wave struck the ship, rocking them sideways. Lighting flashed past Ximor's vision, and he thought frantically that it couldn't have been more than a few feet off the deck.
The masts! he thought frantically and realized there was nothing they could do if the lightning struck.
Then, in the middle of chaos and panic, something happened which nobody had ever expected.
In nothing more than seconds the rain stopped. The Bonnie Fortune gave another lurch upwards and then landed flat in the water, drifting slowly ahead on open waters. The light returned as they sailed under a clear blue sky and the sun shone warmly down on them.
Ahead, Ximor could see an island, the green vegetation shining out at them like emeralds.
"What..?" he muttered to himself. The crew seemed to slowly come to a stop, all of them asking the same question as they looked ahead to the emerald paradise of jungle and then back to where the storm was raging, no more than half a mile away from the ship.
The ship coasted onwards and then struck the shore.
8. Row call.
"Land, hoy!" one of the crew called. Someone else laughed. It was a high, frantic sound of mixed pleasure and disbelief. Ximor suspected he had been the one laughing.
They disembarked, climbing down on rope ladders and splashing down in the shallow waters around the ship. Little by little Ximor directed them onto the beach. Standing in a line, he called their names one by one, wishing against the odds that nobody was missing.
All were present until Ericson.
"Here!" Klaus called, holding a hand in the air and gesturing down at a green Flotsam lying on the beach. A gasp went through the crew, followed by a long moment of silence as nobody asked the question they all didn't want the answer to.
"Is he..." Ximor began and Klaus shook his head, his lips rising in a rare smile.
"Knocked cold. Loose barrel got him by the bilges."
Ximor sighed with relief, the sigh cut off halfway through as he saw the next name on his checklist. "Farrah?" he asked.
In the half-minute of silence he went through every chat he had with the Xweetok; from the last one before the storm to the first one when he had met her on the docks of Tyrannia, unemployed, broke and angry.
He had always liked Farrah more than the others. There wasn't anything between them -there couldn't be- but he liked her all the same; her broken dreams were eerily similar to his own and he often thought of him saving her from a sunken ship and a large debt, and how someone would do the same for him if it came to that.
A splash of water broke him from his thoughts and he looked to the shoreline. Sara lay on her back just above the water, panting heavily. Wrapped in her arms lay Farrah.
The crew broke into a cheer and ran over to them, all fifty of them fighting to be the first one to hug Sara and congratulate her on being a hero.
"Yeah, ger'off me!" Sara snapped, shooing the pets away. She dumped Farrah onto the sand and pushed her chest.
Farrah coughed, spat up water and then blinked several times as she came to.
"And you, you ditzy li'l junebug," Sara snapped. "Pets who can't swim stays under the deck in bad weather."
But despite her insults and angry tone, Sara was smiling as well. Farrah sat up and gave Sara a warm embrace. Ximor pushed himself through the crowd and hugged them both; glad to have them back.
The rest of the crew call went by in good moods which rose further for each voice answering the call.
"Tony?" Ximor asked. Nothing. "Tony?" he asked again, looking around.
"Hmmmf!" a strange sound came from... somewhere. "Hmmf!" A barrel stranded on the shore began to move. Ximor had a confused look on his face. He walked over to the barrel and kneeled down.
"Tony? Are you in there?" he asked.
"Yes..." Tony said in a shameful voice. A roaring laughter rolled over Ximor.
"How did you manage to get stuck in a barrel?" Ximor asked as he tried not to laugh again.
"I don't know... I hid in the cabin as soon as we sailed into the storm, and I guess I, well... I don't know. Just get me out of here!" Tony yelled as loud as he could.
Ximor couldn't help but laugh as he opened the barrel and let Tony out. Tony was extremely embarrassed and walked away from the rest of the crew.
Ximor continued with the crew call, and reached the end of the list. Everyone was there.
"I've got a damage report for you," Finn said somberly at the end of the call. Once his name had been confirmed present he had gone back to check on the one survivor he cared the most about; the ship.
"Lay it on me," Ximor replied, smiling. After a thing like this he felt like nothing could shake him.
"Front mast is loose," Finn began. "The bow is crushed and we're taking in water through several leaks. None serious but we won't leave the shore until we plug 'em."
Ximor nodded, smiling. Nothing they hadn't expected, and better than anybody could have hoped.
To be continued...